It went over most viewers’ heads, but fans of Yemenite Jewish food got an extra laugh out of Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Saturday Night Live” appearance over the weekend.
The actor made a cameo during the show’s “Weekend Update” segment, performing in character as Admiral General Aladeen, the protagonist of Cohen’s next movie, “The Dictator.”
The character — a mashup of Muammar Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein and other Middle Eastern tyrants — used the appearance to promote the film, which follows the despot during an Ahmedinejad-style visit to New York City. General Aladeen — the leader of the fictional country of Wadiya — reported that the film has already received raves from Roger Ebert and the New York Times, though in both cases the praise was extracted via torture.
Cohen opened his appearance by addressing his “Weekend Update” host, Seth Meyers, with what sounded like gibberish to most viewers, but is in fact the name of a Yemenite Jewish dish.
“Jachnun, jachnun, halloooooooo,” Cohen said, before greeting his interviewer as “Zionist Seth Meyers.”
He continued, “Good evening, America, and death to the West.”
Cohen’s jachnun joke follows an even bigger inside joke from the 2006 film “Borat,” in which the comedian spoke Hebrew while delivering lines in what was ostensibly Kazakh, the language of his anti-Semitic character. (Israel’s Channel 10 showed a Hebrew clip from “Borat” during an interview the station conducted with Cohen — also partly in Hebrew — at the time of the film’s release.) The comedian also spoke Hebrew during a guest gig on “The Simpsons,” in which he provided the voice of an Israeli tour guide during a visit by the title family.
Cohen’s “SNL” appearance drew big laughs from the audience, as well as a surprise cameo by Martin Scorsese, with whom Cohen worked on last year’s “Hugo.”
“The Dictator” premieres May 16 in the US, and will open in Israeli theaters in June.